Democrats are moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, with the accusation Trump pressured a foreign government for grime on an opponent
Donald Trump is facing an impeachment investigation and seems in difficulty. Why ?
Democrats in the House of Representatives are moving forward with an impeachment inquiry to explore whether the US president should effectively be put on trial by the US Congress and, if convicted, removed from office.
The key accusation is that Trump put pressure on a foreign government to dish up dirt on one of the leading Democratic nominees to challenge him in next year's presidential election, the former vice-president Joe Biden.
Under US election law, it is illegal to seek the help of foreign entities for personal political gain. Trump's efforts to solicit information on Biden appears to fall squarely into that category, and though sitting presidents cannot be charged with a criminal offense they can be impeached by Congress.
Haven't we been down this road before ?
Yes we have. Between May 2017 and March 2019 Trump tied himself up in knots over the inquiry by the special counsel Robert Mueller into whether his 2016 presidential campaign conspired to receive help from Russia and whether Trump obstructed justice during that investigation.
It is one of the remarkable features of the current furor that here we are again with the US president facing accusations that he solicited foreign help to sway an election. On 25 July, the day after Mueller testified to Congress, Trump was on the phone to the Ukrainian chairman, asking for” a favor “.
So what was this ‘ favor ‘?
In the past couple of days, crucial documentary evidence relating to a complaint raised by a whistleblower has been released. The documents include an edited transcript provided by the White House of that key phone conversation on 25 July, between Trump and the recently elected Ukrainian president, former comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
” I would like you to do us a favor ,” Trump tells Zelenskiy, invoking a conspiracy hypothesi relevant to the origins of the Mueller investigation and later in the bellow referencing Biden.” There's a lot of talk about Biden's son ,” Trump said.” A lot of people want to find out about that .”
In the call Trump promoted Zelenskiy to liaise directly with his personal lawyer, the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the US attorney general, William Barr, in investigations of Biden's activities.
What else did the whistleblower say ?
The whistleblower, an intelligence official who remains anonymous, filed a complaint, released on Thursday. It offer further damning accusations about Trump's behavior, which the official said poses” dangers to US national security “.
It also gives details of steps taken within the White House allegedly to cover up details of the 25 July phone call.
What was the clay on Biden and his son that Trump was looking for ?
Joe Biden's second son, Hunter Biden, took up a paid posture on the board of a large Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, in April 2014. That was two months after Ukraine's Russian-backed government was overthrown after mass protests and a new government installed.
Joe Biden liaised between the Obama White House and the fledgling Ukrainian regime. In March 2016 he told the new government in Kyiv that the US would withhold$ 1bn in loan guarantees unless corruption was rooted out, including firing the country's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was widely regarded as being a soft touch.
Trump and his key consultants have taken these facts and run with them. Under their narrative, Biden corruptly pressured Ukraine into rejecting Shokin because the prosecutor had been investigating Burisma and Hunter Biden's role within the company.
Do the Trump claims hold water ?
There are several problems with his theory. As Bloomberg has reported, the Burisma investigation was inactive at the time Shokin was forced out. Several European leaders had also lobbied for Shokin to be removed.
Ukraine authorities have also said there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Joe Biden has stated he never talks to his son about his overseas business dealings.
How serious is Trump's latest scandal ?
Impeachment is an solely political process, as opposed to a criminal prosecution. So Trump's predicament is merely as serious as Congress construes it.
At first glance, things look bad for him. Up to now the Democratic leadership in Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, has been wary of going down the impeachment road for anxiety of dividing the party and alienating voters.
But with Ukraine the floodgates have opened and a majority of House Democrat are now in favor at least of exploring impeachment as an option. Pelosi too has come onboard. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, told a House intelligence committee hearing on Thursday that the whistleblower had” done the right thing” and that the matter is was ” unprecedented “.
That makes it quite possible that Trump could be investigated by the House and then impeached, with formal charges , known as” articles of impeachment”, brought against him. A trial would ensue in the US Senate, where two-thirds would have to convict Trump for him to be out of the White House.
The US Senate is currently controlled by the Republican party by 53 senators to 47 Democrats and independents. Twenty Republicans would have to vote against their own president to oust Trump, and though some senators , notably the former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have called his actions ” deeply troubling”, we are still a long way from that.
Read more: www.theguardian.com